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March 10, 2019

Sermon Psalm 8:1  . . . “How Majestic is Your Name”

“How Majestic is Your Name”

Psalm 8:1

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

On July 16, 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 blasted off from the coast of Florida, bound for the moon.  And as you can imagine, it wasn’t easy.  They were, after all, sitting on top of a thirty-six story rocket, and would travel 240,000 miles from home.  A lot of things could go wrong.

And a few things did go wrong.  For example, four minutes before they were about to land on the moon, the display on their computer froze with the message, “1202.”  So it was an error code, okay, but for what?  No one knew, and time was running out.

And as Armstrong and Aldrin neared the surface, they were going too far and too fast.  And instead of seeing a nice, flat plain where they intended to land, Armstrong looked out to see a vast crater field and boulders as big as trucks.

Then there was the problem of fuel.  They hoped to have two minutes of fuel left after they landed, but they were still a hundred feet above the surface, and had only sixty seconds left.

Then when they landed, ice was blocking the fuel line.  And no one knew--would it melt, or would it cause a catastrophic explosion?

Thankfully, they completed their mission, rendezvoused with the command module, and made it safely all the way home.

But before they left the surface of the moon, they left a few things on the moon.  One was a plaque signed by President Nixon and the three astronauts, attached to a leg of the lunar lander.  It read, “Here, men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon.  July 1969, A.D.  We came in peace for all mankind.”  Also, they left an American flag, as well as a golden replica of an olive branch, and a mission patch from Apollo 1.

But there was one more thing--just a few feet from that first boot print man made on the moon, they left a small, white, cloth pouch.  And in that pouch was a small, thin, 99% pure silicon disc, about the size of a half dollar.  And etched onto that disc, in letters one-fourth the width of a human hair, were seventy-three messages from nations around the world.

For example, John Gorton, Prime Minister of Australia, wrote:  “Australians are pleased and proud to have played a part in helping to make it possible for the first man from earth to land on the moon.”  And Kristjan Eldjarn, President of Iceland, wrote:  “May the great achievements of space research inaugurate an era of peace and happiness for all mankind.”

And among those many words of congratulation and encouragement from leaders all around the world, there was one more.  In the very middle, framed with gold, were the words of Psalm 8:  “Jahweh our Lord, how great Your name throughout the earth, above the heavens is Your majesty chanted.”

Please turn in your Bible to page 571, as I read the words of Psalm 8.  It says:  “To the Choirmaster:  according to the Gittith.  A Psalm of David.  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!  You have set Your glory above the heavens.  Out of the mouth of babies and infants, You have established strength because of Your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.  When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?  Yet You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

It’s been said that the book of Psalms is the book in which we can find nearly every human emotion.  Are you glad?  There’s a psalm for you to sing.  Are you sad?  There’s a psalm for that too.  Whatever your mood, you can find a psalm that’ll express it.

And there are many kinds of psalms.  There are psalms of thanksgiving, like Psalm 30:  “Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name.”  There are wisdom psalms, like Psalm 36:  “Your steadfast love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the clouds.”  And there are psalms of lament, like Psalm 3:  “O Lord, how many are my foes!  Many are rising against me.”

And among those many different kinds of psalms, there are also praise psalms.  And this one, Psalm 8, is the very first one.

It begins with this:  “To the Choirmaster:  according to the Gittith.  A Psalm of David.”

“A Gittith,” it said.  What’s a Gittith?

I’m glad you asked!  The word “Gittith” means a “winepress.”  And as commentators tell us, the word also came to mean a stringed instrument that was shaped like a winepress.  Later, the Greeks called it a “kithara,” and the Spanish called it a “guitarria,” (which is, by the way, how we got the English word, “guitar.”)

So as best as we can guess, Psalm 8 was first sung on an instrument that was a distant relative of our modern-day guitar.

Verse 1:  “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

Now before we go any further, let’s stop and look at that very first word, or rather, the very first letter:  “O.”  “O Lord, our Lord.”

So what does that little letter “O” mean?  It’s not just a letter.  It’s an exclamation of awe and fear and wonder.

And it’s a letter we use a lot.  We don’t just say, “I don’t know.”  We say, “O, I don’t know.”  And neither do we say, “Yes, very much.”  We say, “O yes, very much!”

It’s a word we often find in the Bible too, like in Psalm 95:  “O come, let us sing to the Lord!  Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!”  Paul wrote to the Romans:  “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!”  And as Jesus road triumphantly into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He said:  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if only you had known what would bring you peace.”

And here in Psalm 8, David didn’t simply say, “Lord, our Lord.”  He said:  “O Lord, our Lord.”  It’s an exclamation of awe, wonder, love, and praise.

And to whom does he sing?  “O Lord, our Lord,” Yahweh, Adonai, the almighty Maker of heaven and earth, the One who once revealed Himself to Moses in a “burning” bush on Mt. Sinai, who called Himself, “The Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End,” “The Great I Am,” “The One who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

Now verse 3:  “When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?”

Now we can’t say for sure all that David saw, three thousand years ago.  We know he was a shepherd, and had spent endless hours watching and wondering at the night sky.  But it’s safe to say that what he did not see was quite a lot!  

For example, it’s been said that if the Milky Way galaxy were the size of the entire continent of North America, just our solar system would fit into a coffee cup.

Even more, back in 2003, Australian astronomers used some of the world’s most powerful instruments to measure the brightness of all the galaxies in just one small sector of the night sky, then calculated how many stars it must contain.  Then from that measurement, they figured how many stars the visible universe might contain.

And as you can guess, (pardon the pun), the figure was astronomical!  They guessed that there were as many as two trillion galaxies with eighty sextillion, (that’s an eight followed by twenty-two zeroes), stars, more than all the grains of sand on earth.

And that’s only the stars in the visible universe!  There’s no telling what we can’t see.

And think of the vastness of space.  If we were to leave planet Earth and travel, at the speed of light, toward the sun, we could make it there in eight minutes.  Not bad!  But if we wanted to leave our galaxy, the Milky Way, it would take us more than fifty thousand years!  And to reach the next galaxy, the Andromeda galaxy, at the speed of light, would take two and a half million years!  Since the average human lifespan is right about seventy-nine years, you better get moving!

And think, for a moment, of our own human body.  For starters, your brain has ten billion nerve cells all interacting to allow you to function as you do.  Your eyes have 100 million receptor cells in each retina, which also contain four other layers of nerve cells.  And each second, the system makes billions of calculations, traveling through your optic nerve to your brain, which has more than a dozen separate vision centers to process it.  And your skin has more than two million tiny sweat glands, (that’s about three thousand per square inch), to keep you warm or cool.

And your heart is beating at an average of seventy-five times a minute, forty million times a year, or two and a half billion times in seventy years.  It pumps three thousand gallons of blood per day.  And your body is supported by two hundred and six bones, connected to more than five hundred muscles, not to mention a massive array of tendons and ligaments.

And that’s nothing to say of your lungs, your senses of hearing, taste, touch, and smell, your endocrine glands, your immune system, and much, much more.

And if that’s not enough for you, scoop up a measly little teaspoon-full of topsoil from the forest floor, and you know what you’ll find?  More bacteria, more fungi, algae, and protozoa than there are people on planet Earth.  And that’s just a teaspoon!

And think of the birds of the air!  Did you know that Arctic Terns fly a ten thousand mile trip each year from their winter home in the Antarctic to their summer home in Asia?  How do they know when to go?  And how do they find their way back home again?  And the Northern Fulmar spends its entire life out on the ocean, having an amazing ability to drink seawater.  It’s beak has an entire desalinization factory, removing salt from the water, excreting it through a tube on the top, and providing fresh water for the bird to drink!

As one author wrote:  “The universe is clotted with wonder!”

So what does all this mean for us?  Sometimes we lose perspective.  Our lives and our concerns seem so large and even frightening.

But then we remember that we are one of seven and a half billion people on earth, who live on a relatively tiny planet in a vast solar system.  And this solar system is just a small part of a vast galaxy, one of the two trillion galaxies in the known universe.

And on this speck of dust, God Himself once chose to become Man, and lived for a while among us.  And out of His infinite love, our Savior Jesus offered up His life on Calvary’s cross to make us right with God.

As nineteenth-century preacher Charles Spurgeon once wrote:  “There is no place where God is not...You may be the only traveler who has passed through that glen; the birds are frightened, and the moss may tremble beneath the first step of a human foot.  Yet God is there in a thousand wonders, upholding the rocky barriers, filling the flowers with perfume, and refreshing the lonely pines with His breath.  Descend to the lowest depths of the ocean where the water sleeps undisturbed and the sand is motionless in unbroken quiet.  The glory of the Lord is there, revealing its excellence in the silent palace of the sea.  Borrow the wings of the morning and fly to the farthest parts of the sea.  God is there.”

No wonder David wrote in the words of Psalm 8:  “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth.”

 

O Lord, our Lord, there is no God like You, who pardons guilt and forgives sin.  Help us in all we think, say, and do, to bring praise, honor, and glory to Your name, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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